While the Redskins are in the process of gearing up for another season, the news and rumors have been flying, and rapidly. During the entire offseason, many moves have created stirs, from the Steve Spurrier resignation/not resignation/resignation to the re-hiring of Joe Gibbs. Free agency played a large part to the re-tooling of the Redskins, once again creating a storm of controversy. Who should remain, who should leave, how much should be paid for certain players, should the Skins trade picks for someone or not -- they have all been subjects of conversations and articles around the world.
In all of the attention that the media has focused on the Skins, no one spotlight has been brighter than on the captain at the helm, Daniel Snyder. Love him, hate him, wonder about him, it doesn't matter. He has been the center of controversy from the start with the stunning price tag he paid to take over his beloved childhood favorite. Has the coverage been accurate or fair? This is the question that has been bandied about by scores of fans everywhere - how much harsh coverage does one team, or owner, deserve? When do the reporters cross the line and take the level of criticism to a personal grudge match with the owner, deserved or not? When do the fans come into play in this whole controversy, considering that without the fans, and their emotions, no one in the National Football League would have a job?
In researching this article, I tried to approach this from the aspect of the fact that there are three sides to most stories - the one side, the opposing side and then the truth. Then I thought about it and thought that no, there were four sides, because I had almost committed the same error in omitting the fans' opinions on the matter. Having talked to fans for the entire offseason, it has become apparent that most fans, even the ones who dislike Dan Snyder for his mistakes in the past have begun to accept and even, dare I say it, defend him. So I wanted to get information from reporters on why they felt they were taking some of the positions that they have taken and what their attitudes towards Snyder were. I also approached the Redskins for their official point of view in consideration of what the reporters and fans were saying, just to see what the third side's take on the situation is. Hopefully, in doing this, we can all begin to divine the truth.
I begin the reporters' section by stating that many spoke off the record, allowing me to use generalized information without quoting them specifically. No one wants to spike their own wheel, as we can all imagine, so I went forward with that in mind. Most were very genial in their talks with me, including a couple of reporters that talked for well over an hour on varied subjects.
Point number one that most reporters brought up first off: winning. The Skins haven't, so what it translates into from their point of view is Mark Cuban from the Dallas Mavericks, but without the success. If the team starts winning, Coach Gibbs stays around with a stable program, most feel that the view of Dan Snyder will turn around. The problem, as most see it, is that he is a fan, with a fan's knowledge of the game (when he first came in), and showed much more exuberance than common sense. Getting a general manager right away who knew the football world would have probably staved off much of the criticism that was aimed at him, but making moves on his own with no real knowledge precipitated the 2000 season. Almost every single reporter I talked to pointed to that season as the proof of what they spoke of in this regard, that and the aftermath for the next three years.
Their second point stems back to the takeover. Many liked the Cookes and felt that they were a good family. The press under the Cooke administration was treated differently, with the smallest of papers getting good treatment just like the larger television stations or print media was. When Dan Snyder fired the entire public relations office, according to many of my sources, it was staffed by people that were not very professional or very experienced at what they did. Most of the stories seemed to go to or were leaked to one source, and the rest of the media resented that. It was difficult to make arrangements for interviews, especially under Spurrier, when many times the media would show up for media day to have to chase down and find players or coaches when they were actually supposed to have been present for the media to question. Several reporters talked of times showing up to totally empty locker rooms, which put them in a bind for their jobs, having to tell their employers that there wasn't anyone there to get a story from. While this has changed, and is now much better as the people who were installed in the media office have grown into their jobs according to all of my sources, one might understand the bitterness that might linger. Along with the media office staff doing so much better, most commented, Joe Gibbs has also turned things around with his steady hand at the helm in taking care of the media people and showing them the respect that they feel they deserve.
The third point is that Dan Snyder, perceiving the attack from the media as being unduly harsh, tended to not talk to them, erecting a wall around himself. While this can be understood, it certainly doesn't help in their perceptions of Dan and who he is. This is also changing quite a bit since Dan has grown into the job with experience, meeting with reporters at dinners and trying to reopen relations with most of the outlets. If a person isn't present to counter claims made against him, or doesn't come out to refute them, then the perception is that the claims made are true, or that the person in question has something to hide. With Dan Snyder beginning to make an effort, though, I could hear in my interviews that most of these analysts beginning to soften around the edges.
In fact, many gave Dan Snyder credit to me on the phone, stating his miraculous re-hiring of Gibbs as the first step in the right direction. They also repeatedly told me that his obvious love of the team isn't in question, not one bit. The fact that he is willing to empty his wallet over and over to help the Skins win is something that they admire, especially with many tight fisted owners in the league. The fact that he seems to be stepping back to let Joe run the team without his interfering is another good step to the reporters I questioned.
Most agreed that Dan is moving the ship on the right course now, and in a couple of years under stable ownership/coaching with a better record, the perception of not only Dan Snyder, but the Redskins organization as a whole, will change for the better.
One source, as far as the current feelings go, summed it up nicely though - Dan Snyder has flown in the face of tradition. And in this league that doesn't do. Not one bit.